8. ABRA – Roses
The extraordinary thing about this song is that the only instrumentation comes from a bass synth and some programmed drums – everything else is purely ABRA’s voice. Her voice combines power and control with a beguiling youthfulness making the sinister lyrics even more impactful.
7. Jamie XX, Young Thug and Popcaan – I Know (There’s Gonna Be Good Times)
“I don’t even listen to hiphop anymore,” I thought before I began writing this list, but apparently I still do. Jamie XX’s album was a boring disappointment but it contained this instant classic: infectiously happy without being cloying or cheesy.
6. The Weeknd – I Can’t Feel My Face
The Weeknd’s woe-is-me act has never convinced me; he’s making a lot of money and getting critical and commercial acclaim for doing stuff he likes to do. But he’s undeniably written some of the most beautiful and idiosyncratic songs of the last ten years, and by matching his self-destructive lyrics with a stankin’ funk bassline and classic-era MJ horns and harmonies “I Can’t Feel My Face” finally catapulted him into the pop stratosphere. It’s a perfect cocktail of sly humour and wild, joyful abandon.
5. Selena Gomez – Me & The Rhythm
I’m too old to have grown up with Disney channel stars like Selena Gomez, Miley Cyrus and Demi Lovato on children’s television; I still don’t really know what programmes any of them were in. But this understated, breathy number by Selena Gomez is anything but childish. There’s an adult kind of remove to her vocal performance which makes the song, or its subject, deadly serious and no big deal all at the same time.
4. Jidenna featuring Roman GianArthur – Classic Man
Re-purposing Iggy Azalea and Charli XCX’s catchy-but-shallow “Fancy” into something bigger, more human, deeper and more intimate, Jidenna’s début managed to be irresistibly funky and thought-provoking. Jidenna’s cool talent is matched and even possibly outshone by the ice-cold swag of Roman GianArthur’s guest verse; but then Jidenna’s verse on “Yoga” by Janelle Monae (both song are on the Wonderland EP) is possibly the highlight of that excellent song.
3. Bunji Garlin, Fay-Ann Lyons and 3 Sunz – Mard
Bunji Garlin had at least one other song which could have gone on this list this year – this is still just about my pick of the bunch because of its sheer energy. I didn’t hear it at Carnival in the summer so I just wild out to it in the garage.
2. C4 Pedro – Vamos Ficar Por Aqui
C4 Pedro and Nelson Freitas’ “Bo Tem Mel” from 2013 introduced me to Angolan kizomba zouk and is also one of my favourite songs of all time. I always felt that Pedro had it in him to make another classic: in October I heard “Vamos Ficar Por Aqui” in Peniche in Portugal and realised my dream had come true. A beautiful combination of Phil Collins chords and bereft vocal yelps, this very nearly made it into my top spot – only the slightly clunky rap lets it down. Where “Bo Tem Mel” was an evocation of the sacred beauty of true love “Vamos Ficar Por Aqui” is a stinging examination of the realisation that things can’t go any further. The phrase “vamos por aqui” literally means “let’s stay here”, and I thought it was a romantic sentiment, something like “let’s never stop feeling like this” – but I was wrong. It actually means “let’s leave it there” – as in, “we should break up”.
1. Angela Hunte & Machel Montano – Party Done
“Ever see a Trini gyal and she wine up her waist and hold up the place? Woy.” I must have heard this ten or twelve times at Carnival on the Sunday, and each time was better than the last. At lot of the biggest soca road marches have been taking influence from shitty trance and EDM, but on this cast-iron banger Angele Hunte and human firecracker Machel Montano kept things rigorously organic with live bass, calypso guitar and a trumpet riff which sounds a lot like Tim Deluxe’s “Just Won’t Do”. The only concession to EDM cancer is a huge filtered snare breakdown. Machel’s “E.P.I.C” (which has a strong EDM influence, proving I’m don’t know what I’m talking about) was another favourite for me – somehow it’s contemplative power soca – but this is possibly his strongest song ever (even better than “Float”). The rhythm is completely irresistible whether you’re marching behind a float or pushing a trolley round Aldi.
Vintage song of the year: Robert Goulet – I Won’t Send Roses (1976)
This year I finally looked up some music by Robert Goulet. I knew him from The Simpsons episode where Bart opens a casino in his treehouse. I almost wish I hadn’t; his version of this song from a 1974 musical is far and away the saddest song I’ve ever heard. It’s literally brought me to tears while listening to it just now. The only songs I can think of which come close in the sob factor are “His Hands” by Candy Staton and “Cole’s Corner” by Richard Hawley (although admittedly I’m hardly well-versed in this type of music.) If you know of anything sadder please don’t let me know.